Learning My Worth By Abiding in Christ

I have struggled with rejection, negative thinking, and a low self esteem most of my life. My parent were divorced when I was a child and I too have experienced divorced. I have been abandoned abused and I have felt totally worthless. Over the past few years I have learned through scripture study and the still small voice that my worth is not based on my determination of myself. 1 John 3:20-24 says:

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things…And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”

Knowing this, I re-focus my thoughts on Christ and this helps me have an eternal perspective. I suddenly remember my potential and understand that I am much more valuable. I can hold my head higher and remind myself of who I am but most importantly who’s I am! I am a daughter of the One who created the moon and stars. Scripture says,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Esphesians 2:8-10)

As I have reminded myself of these things, my fears of rejection melt away. I no longer see myself as a failure. My faith grows as I abide in Him. As I follow His commandments, I see myself become stronger and more like Christ.

In his last talk at the April 2017 General Conference Robert D Hales tells us what disciple of Jesus Christ is. He says:

“What does it mean to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? A disciple is one who has been baptized and is willing to take upon him or her the name of the Savior and follow Him. A disciple strives to become as He is by keeping His commandments in mortality, much the same as an apprentice seeks to become like his or her master.
Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only “follower.” But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.”

I think its very important that we remember who we are. We may have to remind ourselves daily and maybe more often. These characteristics that Elder Hales talked about come by way of abiding in Christ. How does one abide in Christ? Christ tells us in the book of John:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit… If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”

Christ asks us to abide in Him and we will bear much fruit. We learn from Paul about this fruit in Galatians 5,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Although these attributes are attained through abiding in Christ, we are human beings and sometimes its harder for us to maintain this spiritual state of being. For example, after I have cleaned all the crayon marks off the walls at our house and the next day our precious little finds girl a broken crayon and draws pretty little pictures everywhere — this allows me to choose. Do I choose to get angry or do I choose to have patience and see this as an opportunity to grow? Sometimes I get angry and I yell out of frustration. When this happens I immediately recognize it and the Spirit lets me know that maybe this wasn’t the best way I could have handled the situation. That’s when I repent and try to do better.

I know that my worth is unshakable and that the Father loves me beyond measure. There is is nothing that I can do or think that will separate me from His love. Paul also says in Romans 8,

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Knowing this keeps me going. I choose to follow His commandments because I love Him. I love that I am that valuable to Him. In return He blesses me with strength to endure day to day. I testify that understanding who you are and how much your Creator loves you helps you be a better disciple of Jesus Christ. Knowing that I am His, helps me have a better image of myself. My mind is set on Him and I can focus more on His plan for my life. Being His disciple. I know that anyone can be a disciple of Jesus Christ. And I know that as we abide in Him, the Spirit will guide us to be better disciples.

It’s Time To Encase Your Jagged Pill With JOY

The Hurt

He is so still. Snuggled up to him in bed, I gently put my hand on his back and wait. I wait to feel him inhale and exhale to make sure he is still alive. He is. My heart is broken for my husband who had been unwell for so long. He was 33, in the prime of life and working as an R&D scientist, when an experiment at work went wrong, leaving him in constant, unsolvable, untreatable, unbelievable pain.

Friends watched our two kids so I could take him to see specialists all over creation, hoping to find some kind of relief for him. Now three years later, not one of those twenty-two doctors, quasi-doctors, or pseudo-doctors has been able to help.

The amazing thing is he hasn’t complained. Not a peep. Ever. He can’t drink water, eat food, sit up straight, stand up straight, bend over, or walk without some level of discomfort. Every morning, I know when he’s waking up because he lets out a sharp gust of breath, telling me the pain woke up too, also ready for a new day. It is his constant companion.

When it first happened, I was doing the best I could to take care of our two kids (neither was in school yet), handle all the responsibilities of the home (including what I would definitely consider the “man chores”), and keep him alive. My own emotional pain increased as I watched him go from a fit, endurance cyclist to an emaciated shadow of himself. I was often overcome with worry, grief, and what-ifs. One of the stealthier what-ifs quietly hovered around the thought of becoming a widow. Months went by like this. He still wasn’t any better, and I was becoming threadbare.

I found myself falling in and out of anger. I was angry that this had happened. I was impatient for God to answer our prayers and just heal him already. Please?? Then I became despondent as more time passed and I realized that this might not just be a short-term detour. This might be the tour.

The Call

And then a phone rang. Would it be possible for me to meet with Bishop on Wednesday? Of course. Not being dullest knife in the drawer, I knew a new calling was waiting. What I had not expected was to be called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher. I can understand why most people aren’t thrilled about receiving a relatively intense calling during an already difficult time. It can seem overwhelming when there is already too much to stress out about. But, despite what was going on in my life, I immediately accepted. I would not allow doubt to sit down and order an appetizer.

It was the best thing that could have happened.

First, here’s what the calling does not do: It doesn’t allow my husband to eat homemade chicken pot pie—his favorite food in all of creation. It doesn’t decrease his pain in any form or fashion. It doesn’t keep my children from constantly squabbling. It doesn’t take me on dates because my husband couldn’t leave the house, even as birthdays and anniversaries came and went. It doesn’t do the dishes.

Here’s what it does: It takes my jagged pill of adversity and encases it in peace. I choose to take the work God wants me to do and do my real, actual, bona fide best. I throw myself headfirst into the scriptures to prepare each lesson. I shut off Netflix, put my fiction books in a stack to the side, ponder rather than rock out when I exercise, read from the manual, read the scriptures, read other sources, and don’t stop until I am satisfied with the result. I channel my best mental and spiritual energy into understanding the doctrine well enough to teach it clearly and to try to teach it in a way that makes those particular points of doctrine important, necessary, and beautiful.

And The Rest

My spirit is fed and energized as I work to prepare my lessons. I find I have fresh strength straight off the vine to put one foot in front of the other, to do the dishes for the 27th time this week, to be the tree my two little squirrels need to climb up, to be resilient enough to suspend my own emotional needs that my husband has become incapable of meeting, to handle coming home and finding him fighting off unconsciousness on the floor. Three years into this plot twist and his health issue has remained unchanged. I, however, have not.

Does this mean I have overcome my part in this story of adversity? I don’t know. Maybe that is the wrong question to ask. The verb often paired with trial, adversity, etc. is “overcome.” With “over,” there is an intrinsic and implicit understanding that the way is up. And after quite some time living with this gut punch, I have noticed that the view from where I am now standing is considerably different from the view from where I started. This adversity has changed my altitude. Up.

As an avid couch-sitting mountain climber (there’s not a Mt. Everest documentary on Netflix or YouTube that I haven’t seen), I know that high-peak climbers have to spend time within certain elevations to acclimatize their bodies before continuing up to areas that require greater strength, stamina, and skill. At first, I felt like my husband’s health challenge was surely a Mt. Everest-y trial for our family. But as my altitude began to change, my perspective also increased, and I saw that this was only one feature on a larger mountain still. This adversity is a skills course intentionally placed in the path and designed to help me and my family acquire, increase, and improve skills we need to survive the conditions ahead.

Like with real climbers, resting and acclimatizing are essential to making spiritual gains. Paradoxically, as I work to magnify my calling, my spirit rests. In the Old Testament, entering into “God’s rest” was synonymous with being in the presence of God. And being in the presence of God happens physically (more or less) by showing up on His doorstep at the temple to do temple work. It also happens when what I’m working on invites the Holy Ghost to come in without knocking.  When I need His presence—His rest—the most so I can keep going, He mercifully gives me the spiritual work to find it. I find it in synthesizing scriptures, I find it in preparing for my calling, I find it in service to others, I find it in playing the hymns on the piano, I find it in sharing clippings of my testimony on Facebook for all the digital world to read, I find it in strengthening someone else through kind words, I find it in temple work, family history work, and my family’s history-making work. This work—His work—brings me rest because through it I am sanctified, quickened, and healed.

Today is the day to encase your jagged pill with joy. Not just any kind of joy, but the joy of Christ. The joy of Christ is found in the emulation of him. Take your burden and wrap it with service, love, acts and words of kindness, staying true to the light in you by keeping the commandments you know the best you can, offering forgiveness, surrendering grudges, putting an arm around the lonely, praying for your friends, praying for people you can’t stand, verbalizing your gratitude for someone to that someone, strengthen the faith of another by filling an unmet need. The burden is still there, but you can no longer taste it. You taste the juicy sweetness of the fruits of the Spirit. You collect a crate of joy fruit for yourself and everyone in your life. This fruit will sustain you on your journey as you ascend the mountain of the Lord.

I know that I will find His rest someday at the very top of the mountain and stay there in His presence forever. Come with me.

 

The Beauty of Gospel Symbiosis

During the months preceding my call to work in the temple, I was looking for something. I didn’t know what it was, but the Lord did. I had thoughts such as “I just don’t feel the Spirit like I used to,” “I’m not really progressing right now,” and “Are my prayers even working?” I knew that I could be praying better, reading my scriptures more thoroughly, and paying closer attention in church, but I wasn’t doing those things on my own and I really needed help overcoming my own spiritual inertia. When I got a call from the temple president’s office, I was amazed at how attentively the Lord had heard my prayers and offered to me exactly what I needed.

Serving as a temple worker has been such a blessing and every shift I work is healing and inspiring to me. However, I know that my service in the temple isn’t about me. The blessings I receive are not the primary purpose of my service, but they are a natural byproduct of it because the temple is a perfect example of what I like to call gospel symbiosis. I remember learning about this principle in science classes as a child. My teacher told us that “symbiosis” is another way of describing a win-win situation. When I was in third grade, we learned about the remora, which is a little fish that nibbles small parasites off of big sharks and other sea creatures. The fish benefit from having something to eat, and the sharks benefit from having their parasites removed. The fish will even clean out the shark teeth, which I imagine takes a lot of courage.

The gospel is all about symbiosis. Every act of service we do also serves us, and every act of personal devotion we do benefits those around us indirectly. The temple is a pinnacle of the win-win nature of being a member of the church. For example, every week at the temple it is a blessing for me to perform ordinances and welcome people to the house of the Lord, it is a blessing for temple patrons to worship in the temple, and it is a blessing for those who have passed on to have their ordinances performed by proxy.

I had an experience in the temple a few weeks ago that provides a sweet snapshot of a regular day as a temple worker. While I was assisting one sister, she told me, “My friend is here with me, this is only her second time in the temple so she’s not quite used to it yet.” A few minutes later, I met her friend. She was a much younger sister and was nervous both because she was new in the temple and because we were navigating a slight language barrier, which she managed beautifully. It was a pleasure to do temple work with these women, and after they were finished I heard the two friends talking nearby. The older sister bore a simple and heartfelt testimony about how good it feels to do something selfless and how the blessings of temple service have given her hope in the face of all her health problems. As I sat there in the soft white light of that peaceful setting, surrounded by the still, small whispers of sisters reverently doing the Lord’s work, I felt my heart grow three sizes in admiration for the pure and loving friendship of these two women, who were so different in age and cultural background but so alike in their willingness to serve. I don’t know what the story of their friendship is, but I do know that the church community fosters unlikely friendships just like theirs — friendships that transcend cultural, generational, and other barriers. I felt such a strong sisterhood there because in the temple we feel keenly that we are part of God’s eternal family and the Spirit reminds us that families belong together.

This simple experience showed me the power of gospel symbiosis, which is so potent within the walls of the temple where we can connect with each other and with God on a spiritual level. These two sisters were clearly so blessed by their friendship with each other, I was grateful to witness it, we were all benefiting from the Spirit of the temple, and the people whose names they brought in received a gift that had the power to change the course of their eternal lives.

I used to think that I went to the temple just for self-care, but it is so much more than that. The temple is a magical place that combines self-care and community care seamlessly and we can take that example into every part of our lives. The symbiotic model of the temple can show us how to go to church more interested in contributing love and friendship to our community than what’s in it for us. It can help us approach our church callings and community service opportunities with an increased sense of gratitude.

On of my favorite scriptures is a gospel paradox spoken by the Savior and recorded in Matthew 16:25: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” When you lose yourself in any kind of service, including temple service, you will find the life God has in store for you. I will add my witness to these words. I promise that the temple can instruct you in the ways of gospel symbiosis and that the Lord will help you find ways to serve through your private devotion and will ensure that you will be personally blessed as you turn outward. May we ever follow the divine patterns which are set in the temple, for these patterns are the way of Christ.

*Christ Calling Peter and Andrew, by James T. Harwood

And The Light Shineth In Darkness

This article is part of a monthly series – Et Lux in Tenebris Lucet.

Some time ago, I was searching for a book. I could have easily found it on Amazon and ordered it within seconds, but I felt that this book needed to be more personal than that -it needed to be used. One day the local used bookstore was going out of business. They had never had the book before when I had checked, but I felt I should drop in. To my great delight, it was there.

The book is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. In it, he writes about his experiences as a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust and how he found meaning in his suffering. This has been a very powerful and influential book for me as I have used its concepts to interpret meaning from various trials in my life. In one particularly poignant passage, Frankl describes working in the prison crew digging trenches in the cold early morning:

“In a last violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “Yes” in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning in Bavaria. Et lux in tenebris lucet—and the light shineth in darkness” (Man’s Search for Meaning, pp.40-41).

And the light shineth in darkness is a passage from John 1:5. To me, it refers to the light of Christ—the light that brings us out of our worst moments, reminds us of God’s love, shows us the way, increases our knowledge, emanates goodness, gives us hope, and many other meaningful purposes. Though we may not see literal lights on a hill as Frankl did to symbolize the spiritual light he received, we all experience the light of Christ. We are all surrounded by darkness at various points, but a light always shines in darkness. Christ always shines in the darkness of our lives.

There are so many ordinary things that can be a light to us. I like to think of them as reminders of the light of Christ, his presence manifest in our lives. Sometimes they are sparkling chandeliers, or sometimes delicate fireflies illuminating the path of life. And for me, it seems they can come just when most needed, or unexpectedly as a tender mercy and reminder of God’s love.

It’s interesting to me that in the English language, light figuratively represents many different concepts—knowledge, understanding, hope, love, life, goodness, etc. I hope I can share with you things that have reminded me of Christ’s light in its many forms. I’d love to hear about your moments of light as well.

Et lux in tenebris lucet.

Frankl, Victor. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.